“One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.” ~ Anais Nin
The first time is hazy.
Like many unwanted memories, only little drips remain.
Sometimes, they come to me after my eyes close, and I know things like how tall I was, or where it hurt the most. Other times, it’s just a general sensation throughout my body—a knowingness that I carry with me every day like shrapnel from war.
It began when I was young, as so many lessons do, and has invited me to summon the courage to understand that everything is an assignment on how to grow more, to love more.
What I mean is, every experience is an opportunity. My utter confusion at the helm of violation was met by my insistence that the remedy must be rage. While my blood boiled hot and seemingly helpless, I could only conjure the vision of freedom through annihilation.
Any time violence is acted out, it’s birth can only be direct from a source of confusion or learned behavior. I was learning that as others had chosen me as a subject for receiving, I too must channel my energy in the same way. I carried this in every cell of my body.
There were other times—one, in particular, when I was just barely realizing what it meant to be a woman.
It was a living nightmare of awakening to a shadow over me, shirt covered in blood, my clothes flung around like a casual windstorm had blown through. I was 14. I had thrown a house party, and had been taken to a couch in the basement, surrounded by half-drunk beers and lawn furniture. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I didn’t say or do anything.
After, I found myself playing cards. Poker, to be exact. I won.
In Paris, lipsticked and foreign, I boarded a metro car late at night on Halloween. I laughed and jeered in English with my friend, and mid-sentence found myself pinned against a window, watching platforms whirl past. As unknown fingers and bits of skin met my own, I tried my hardest to forget I was there. I squinted until the shapes flying by looked like something beautiful. I tried to close my ears to mangled obscenities and declarations of conquering.
I felt that, perhaps, I was not real. I lived somewhere outside of skin and bones.
What’s interesting is that this led to both a preoccupation and utter disinterest with my body. I wanted to shrink to be invisible, and simultaneously, I wanted to honor that my physicality was merely a vehicle for something expansive and luminous.
I share these stories not because I am interested in identifying myself as a victim, but because I am interested in perpetuating a dialogue that is still deemed controversial by many.
What happens when a body is violated, first, is that we learn that our bodies are not sacred.
They can be penetrated, abused, violated. We learn distrust. We learn violence in action. As women, we also learn to fear the unknown, to be cautious when doing things alone. Subsequently, we live in limitation, and we find that, perhaps, the lights grow dim.
After fear comes loss of power. In a world which is still largely unequal, violation so often leads to the inability to see that we are capable of more than being dominated, that we are here to do more than play small.
When you pair this with the desire to shrink, the encouragement to shrink, and the fear that in lieu of shrinking we may just be destroyed all together, there is not much hope for advancement. I know that my stories are not an anomaly. I know because every single girlfriend I have has her own story.
We carry these stories. These violations have become part of our collective lineage.
The stories of my mother and my grandmother and my sisters are also my stories. They are our stories together, a collective web of being held down. We carry a collective experience of aggression.
What concerns me now is collective healing.
Women are magical in many ways, but one that is quite important is our alchemical ability to take fear and rage and turn them into passion and drive in the blink of an eye. In this way, we can look at violation as a gift. Thank you for the fuel for my dedication to healing. Thank you for the courage to speak my truth, because I have nothing to fear when I already know what it feels like to be powerless.
Although I am met by stories of abuse, violation and distrust even in casual conversation, I am also encouraged by the number of tremendous women I meet who have used these experiences as a catalyst for change. I know this burden is also carried by men, felt by men and experienced by men. So, this is not a gender-specific call to action.
This is a heartfelt and urgent call for revolution.
In my quest for personal healing and the release of my own traumas, the strongest medicine has been the reclaiming of my own power. It has been the embodiment of my sexuality, the unapologetic ferocity with which I love my body, and the deep dedication to encouraging women of all ages and walks of life to do the same. We must heal ourselves in exactly the same way we were violated.
When our power is taken away, we must return it to ourselves. It is not to be claimed from anyone else. When our sexuality is shamed, we must ignite our own passion and sensual empowerment. When our voices are muted or disregarded, we must speak fearlessly and without wavering until our message is heard.
It is my most sincere hope and desire that we may all speak openly, fiercely, and without hesitation about the experiences that have challenged us.
The only way in which we can shift the paradigm of fear is to drive it out with light, with love.
The shame around this conversation can only be dissipated by the conviction to continue talking.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran